Today’s train operations, both freight and passenger, have complex operating processes of which many still require human skills and intervention.

Whether it is the locomotive conductor, train dispatcher or other support workforce, the daily rail operations are done by people.

Over the years, the improved performance of railway operations has increased the demand for more railway transportation services. This increase demand is putting a challenge on today’s rail operations, hence more advanced control and safety systems are being implemented to handle the daily operations.

Despite the many automated systems already in place, there are other control systems available to make railway operations more reliable, maintainable and safe.

On modern trains, multiple railway systems are deployed to ensure safe railway operation. Each system has a dedicated function to fulfil during the operations of the train (e.g., signalling, propulsion, HVAC, lights, etc.).

Today’s technology allows on-board electronic systems to support and maintain the railway operations in a proactive way, maintenance is done in a more predictive manner instead of a corrective one.

Locomotive audio, video and data recorders can help us understand why an accident happened.

The benefits of recording audio, video and data of operating crews extend beyond investigations. These recordings could prevent accidents by helping railroad management identify safety issues and develop training tools to address them. With railway operators hauling dangerous goods, it is important that crews are trained efficiently so that accidents are prevented.

To ensure smooth operations, on trains, on-board electronics shall be compliant with several industry standards. These standards include both wired and wireless devices, computing equipment, I/O controllers and gateways that fulfil the requirements for different on-board systems.

An event recorder, such as HaslerRail’s TELOC® system, is an on-board electronic unit which complies with relevant industry standards and is providing the necessary functionality to record audio, video and other data available on board of a train.

 

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The important safety relevant signals such as running speed, brake status, train configuration, etc. are relevant for post incident analytics and will be recorded by the event recorder. In parallel any action in the CAB can be recorded via additional signals and by audio and video. Recording of audio and/or video signals is becoming more advanced for safety critical on-train data recording.

Interfaces and network connectivity can be implemented in different ways. Some of these interfaces are:

a typical configuration for a train data recording system including audio and video
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A typical configuration for a train data recording system including audio and video

Viewable Image - a typical configuration for a train data recording system including audio and video

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A typical configuration for a train data recording system including audio and video
  • Multifunction Vehicle Bus (MVB) which has different physical media connections in order to support communication along the train. The data recorder would record TCMS (Train Control & Management System) messages defined as signals in the configuration scheme of the data recorder.
  • Profibus (Process Field Bus) is usually based on RS-485 communication and is recording events (data) as defined in its configuration.
  • CANopen is based on the CAN communication protocol (EN 50325-4 standard) and is widely applied in industrial applications to connect complex systems. The data recorder is recording CANopen messages as specified in the CAN configuration.
  • Ethernet communication (acc. to IEEE 802.3) is gaining more and more weight in railway applications for Train Communication Networks (TCN). By nature Ethernet is not a real time protocol. Therefore the IEC61375-2-3 standard has been developed for IP based TCN. As a part of the TCN architecture TRDP (Train Real Time Data Protocol) has been defined to allow the exchange of Process Data (PD) or Message Data (MD) between train systems in real time. The train data recorder shall comply with the TRDP protocol in order to be able to record Ethernet information from the train sub-systems. This information is then recorded as specific signals in the data recorder.

Audio and Video recordings are using an increasing number of IP (Internet Protocol) based components. Real-Time Transport Protocol (RTP) and Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP) are common protocols for media streaming over IP. Pulse-code modulation (PCM) codecs are common to process audio data. PCM modes can be divided into PCMA or PCMU type.

Another important matter is how the data is stored in the memory of the data recorder. While commercial CCTV installations are using standard, off the shelf, products for storage of enormous amounts of audio and/or video data, safety related data shall be stored in a more reliable way.

Therefore equipment following the relevant railway standards is necessary (e.g. IEEE 1482:2013, crash worthiness). As we know, the requirements of such applications are more robust than the commercial use. This fact is affecting the memory device of a railway data recorder. Hence the size of such a memory is finite and may not be suitable to store hours (days) of audio and video data. This is not really a problem, since for a critical post incident analysis, only the few minutes before and during the incident are of interest for investigation.

Another approach to solve the limited memory size is to send the recorded data regularly off-board to a ground infrastructure. The continuous connection of the train with the data centre would then allow live analysis and data mining of the recorded data. Whatever data it is (signals, audio, video).

Audio and Video recording for safety relevant operational monitoring will add substantial value to the railway undertakings. Nowadays the recorded data should not only be used for post incident analysis after a dangerous situation occurred (or even a catastrophic one). Live, near real-time audio and video information can be used to pro-actively support involved individuals in railway operations to learn from mistakes and to conclude the right decisions for improvements to avoid future risks.

Predictive analysis is an increasing application in order to increase the safe operations of railways, especially when hauling dangerous and hazardous goods. Preventing rail accidents and protecting the safety of the public should be our top priority.